Hong Kong

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:04 pm on 18th June 2019.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:04 pm, 18th June 2019

I thank the Minister for that answer and I thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing this urgent question. There are literally millions of people in Hong Kong who follow the proceedings in this House and who look to us for support in their fight to protect their human rights. It matters to them there that we here remember their position, and it is right that we should recognise your role, Mr Speaker, in getting this issue ventilated in the House.

The news that the Executive in Hong Kong had suspended the legislation for the extradition amendments was welcome as far as it went, but the message should go out from this House that it did not go far enough. We in this House stand with the 2 million people who took again to the streets in Hong Kong on Sunday to say that suspension is not enough. That legislation must be withdrawn for good. Will the Minister make it clear to the chief executive that that is the position of this country and that that is what her Administration must now do?

In recent weeks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared that the Sino-British joint declaration was meaningless and that it no longer had any realistic meaning. I welcome what the Minister has said on this today, but will he assure us that that will continue to be put forcefully to the Chinese Government at every opportunity, because for a fellow permanent member of the UN Security Council to take this view undermines the very idea of a rules-based international order. Will the Government now demand of the Chinese Government that they should resile from the view that they have previously expressed in relation to the joint declaration? It is a binding bilateral treaty registered with the United Nations. China cannot be allowed to pick and choose the obligations in international law that it will observe and honour.

People across the world were shocked to witness the violence used against peaceful protesters in Hong Kong last week. Legitimate democratic Governments do not use tear gas and rubber bullets against their own people when they choose to exercise their democratic right to protest. We hear that the Chief Executive is due to make an apology today to the people of Hong Kong for her handling of the affair. Does the Minister agree with me that that apology should extend to those who were harassed and injured as a result of what was done, and can we in this House send the message that we continue to watch what happens in Hong Kong and we will not sit mute as those who protested then are prosecuted when the spotlight of world attention has moved on?

The events of recent weeks in Hong Kong have been horrifying, but they should not have been surprising. For years now, the People’s Republic of China has been salami slicing the commitments it gave under the joint declaration. Sadly, the Executive Council has too often been complicit in that, but the commitments that have been broken are commitments to which this country has been a party. Will our Government now send the strongest possible message that we will not stand by and allow that process of salami slicing to continue?